The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends


Dividends, Baby!

I love cash, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one! A group of smart, conservative Washington DC dudes have proposed a plan to discourage carbon emissions and get families paid about $2,000 per year.

The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends would tax companies that produce carbon emissions (which leads to climate change and pollution) where it enters the economy (at the mine, the well or when it’s imported or exported). The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon and increase over time.

Americans would receive dividends (payments) from the revenue, so an American family of four would receive a $2,000 check each year. The dividend is intended to help families supplement their income as the economy adjusts to the higher price of fossil fuels since gas and oil companies will pass the higher prices onto consumers. Eventually, renewable energy would become the more cost efficient option.

“We the People deserve to be compensated when others impose climate risks and emit heat-trapping gases into our shared atmosphere. The new ground rules make intuitive sense: the more one pollutes, the more one pays; the less one pollutes, the more one comes out ahead. This, for once, would tip the economic scales towards the interests of the little guy,” states the paper.

The International Monetary Fund agrees that a carbon tax is the best way to get energy prices right. The Citizens Climate Lobby supports a similar plan. These plans actually offer real solutions to climate change.

The plan reduces the need for regulations which the oil and gas companies will love. It encourages renewable energy investment and innovation. It puts money into American families pockets.

We’re Already Paying For Pollution and Climate Change

American families are already paying for the waste created by the oil and gas companies.

Outdoor air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Drilling, smog and pollution trigger asthma. We pay for the effects of climate change when major storms (exacerbated by climate change) like hurricane Sandy cause major damage to our communities. We are already paying for this with higher taxes, higher insurance costs and medical bills. It’s time the fossil fuel companies started paying us back.

“Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right,” says Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Subsidizing Energy

The International Monetary Fund says when you calculate externalities into the subsidies that energy companies already get, fossil fuels start to look a whole lot more expensive. Renewables that already receive federal subsidies (such as roof top solar panels and wind energy) start to sound a lot cheaper.

The federal government subsidizes most energy companies through tax credits and cash given to companies and individuals. Energy companies have gotten subsidies since 1916 and I doubt that’s ending any time soon.

Subsidies aren’t necessarily bad. Farmers get to deduct the cost of the fuel they use to run equipment. Homeowners can get tax credits for installing roof solar panels. Low income families can buy energy at a reduced price. Oil and gas companies get to write off the cost of manufacturing and exploration. It’s just a bunch of tax code.

Externalities like air pollution and climate change on the other hand are not as cut and dry. They’re not written into the tax code. Families pay for them indirectly through higher taxes and insurance bills. Which is why it’s about time that families get paid back for unnecessary health risks and climate change. It’s time for oil and gas companies to motivate toward efficiencies and to innovate in a greener direction.

A Call To Action

If you agree that it’s time for a carbon dividend and tax, contact your Senator and Representatives and ask them to bring up the plan in Congress.

This sounds hilarious to me, but you can actually tweet Congress. The part of me that still feels like a 21 year old college student thinks this is awesome! The conservative mom part of me wants to ask what this world is coming to when politicians send and receive messages in 140 characters or less on something called Twitter?

If you’re too old to tweet, call or email your representative.  I did all of the above. It took about 10 minutes. I wrote one quick email and copied and pasted that for all of my representatives, which probably saved a minute or two.

If you’re not sure who your representative is you can find out here.

Go now, and tweet your Congress person. Tell them you want your carbon dividends, please. Ask them nicely!

Update: Yesterday (3/17/17) Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Congressman Ryan Costello (PA06) and 14 other House Republicans released the “Republican Climate Resolution” which outlines their commitment to protecting the environment and ending climate change. When you call, email or tweet Congress ask them to support the Republican Climate Resolution, too!





All Americans First


The Power of Ideas

I became an American citizen in 2011 and it’s the only test I’ve ever enjoyed studying for. Maybe that’s why Trumps An America First Energy Plan is bugging me so much. It leaves a whole lot of Americans out. The America I know and love was built by millions of people who shared and developed different ideas and dreams about what America could look like. Any American energy plan that leaves out renewable energy misses out on what really makes America great, and that’s a diversity of ideas, jobs and people. We use enough energy to justify developing all ideas related to energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.

The plan is short on details, but it leans heavily toward the idea that increasing fossil fuel production will create greater prosperity for Americans and that protecting the environment is holding Americans and businesses back. It focuses on developing shale, oil and natural gas. It does not mention renewable energy at all.

It’s hard to argue against ideas, but I’ll try.

Job Killers

“A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health.”

The idea here is that developing fossil fuel production will stimulate the economy but renewable energy will not. That’s not true.

“When renewables start to displace fossil fuels, the direct comparison suggests a net gain, which is confirmed by a look at the broader economy. Filling up a car’s gas tank and use of electricity in a fossil-fuel- or nuclear-based power grid do not generate many jobs, either in the energy sector or among its suppliers. These sectors generate far fewer jobs than average consumption spending does. By contrast, renewables and investment in energy efficiency generate more jobs than demand for other goods and services,” according to the International Monetary Fund.

Real Jobs

I can’t actually quote anything from the plan regarding renewable energy or energy efficiency jobs because they are not mentioned in the plan, but the silence speaks for itself.

Energy job numbers are a total snooze but stay awake and just scan em! The point I’m trying to make with these numbers is that renewable energy and energy efficiency is already a large chunk of the energy jobs in the United States. Any realistic plan needs to include these workers and the contributions they make to America’s energy mix.

  • Energy Efficiency – 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in
    the design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services.
  • Oil and Petroleum – almost 516,000 workers nationwide
  • Solar Jobs – Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms.
  • Wind farms –  102,000 workers
  • Natural Gas – 88,242 workers
  • Coal electrics generation and coal fuels –  160,119 jobs
  • Hydroelectric generation –  65,554 workers
  • Nuclear generation technologies – 68,176 workers
  • Bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies – 112,642 workers
  • Corn ethanol fuels – 28,613 jobs
  • Other Biofuels (algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas, and advanced biofuels) –  22,504 workers

We Have a Ton of Oil!

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.

There’s the idea that we are not tapping into the energy resources we already have, but the United States is already the worlds biggest oil producer. The US surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil and natural gas production in 2014. The largest oil and natural gas deposit ever found in the United States was discovered in Texas in 2016. So yes, we already do have a ton of domestic energy right here in America. From oil, natural gas, solar and wind energy. So lets recognize that…since we are already doing it!

Shale Oil and Oil Shale

We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

The US does have a whole lot of “shale oil” (AKA tight oil), making America more oil rich than Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, shale oil is extracted through fracking. Fracking works by shooting water and sand into rock formations. The environmental impact is water contamination and earthquakes, and of course climate change from carbon emissions. Water contamination and fracking made earthquakes are real environmental bummers.

So yes, we do have a lot of untapped “shale oil,” but that oil doesn’t come without major environmental consequences. Plus, Americans are indirectly subsidizing these oil companies when they pay out of pocket for damage done to their homes through fracking earthquakes as well as polluted well water.

Then there’s “oil shale.” Yes, it’s different from “shale oil.” No, the America First Energy Plan does not specify if it means “shale oil” or “oil shale” which makes it even more ambiguous and ripe for misinterpretations.

“Even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia,” according to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS Information Center.

That’s a lot of oil… but it’s never really that simple is it?

“Estimates vary, but turning oil shale into gasoline or diesel may lead to three or more times as many heat-trapping gas emissions than conventional oil,” according to the “At present, oil shale is not a commercially viable product in most of the world, as the same processes that make it dirty also make it expensive.”

So yes, we have a ton of oil shale and shale oil, but they shouldn’t be lumped together. Neither will lead to energy independence or a sustainable future for our children. Neither is the key to a sound American energy policy.

“Natural” Gas

The America First Plan doesn’t say this, but I do know that there’s the mistaken idea that natural gas is a better choice for the environment. Maybe because it has the word “natural” in it? Despite the name “natural gas” it’s not necessarily any more or less natural than coal or oil. And yes, we have a ton of it, or at least enough to last about 93 years. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, and methane is a greenhouse gas way more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks during the extraction process, leading to more greenhouse gas emission.

So although natural gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, it’s not a better solution for the environment. So just disregard the word “natural” when you think about “natural” gas. It’s about as natural as all the other fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are really just ancient plants and animals that turned into “fossil” fuels over millions of years. They’re not unnatural, but they’re also not the great for the environment.

American Energy For All Americans

I agree with the idea that we need to get our energy from right here in the United States. We should be tapping into our resources. I just think we need a long term, sustainable plan that recognizes that fossil fuels are a great source of wealth and prosperity for many Americans, but also that fossil fuels are frying our planet.

In many ways, America itself is just an idea. People all over the world dream of coming to America. There’s room for all American’s ideas and dreams. My big idea is that my kids will have kids one day and they’ll talk about how lucky they are that our generation ended climate change and created a whole lot of prosperity for all Americans. My idea is that we can work out an energy plan that works for everyone. More about that soon… so until then, go outside!